Although we’ve never actually met ‘in the flesh’ (!), I feel that I know Wendy, having followed her excellent blog and her writing journey over the past few years.
She’s also been a follower of this blog for a while, often comments on posts (thank you!) and, as some of you will remember, she judged the last ‘Random Word Flash Fiction’ competition I ran. (Her dog is also called Bonnie, as is mine. See, we’re kindred spirits!).
I don’t think she’ll mind me saying that she started writing relatively recently (compared to the tortoises amongst us – ie: me – she’s definitely a hare!) and she’s moved from short stories to serials to novels in an astonishingly short space of time.
I find her success an inspiration and I hope you will too. I’m sure, if you post a question for her in the comments, she’ll be only too happy to answer.
So, it’s over to Wendy to answer my fiendish questions….
Can you sum up your new novel, ‘The Bride’ in one sentence?
When her best friend goes missing after a whirlwind romance, Alice is forced to confront her own fears in order to find out the truth.
I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?
My journey started in 2011 when the school I was teaching in closed. After doing an online writing course, I started writing short stories for magazines followed by serials. After having over three hundred stories published, my thoughts turned to longer fiction. My first novel won me an agent who later decided she wanted me to write a psychological thriller instead. After I’d written it, the agent had to let some of her clients go and I was one of them. The novel I’d written, ‘What She Saw’, went on to win the Flash500 novel competition, and not being able to face going down the torturous agent route again, I submitted it directly to Bookouture. Imagine my delight when within days I had a phone call to say they’d love to offer me a two-book deal. This was followed a year later by a second deal and I have now published three books with them. My third novel, The Bride, came out on May 20th and the next will be published in December.
You’ve written 3 psychological thrillers to date. Have you always written in this genre?
No, I haven’t. When I was writing fiction for the magazines, I wrote mostly women’s fiction and romance. There were certainly no deaths or missing brides!
Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?
I am absolutely a pantster at heart although having a contract makes this hard as I have to submit a synopsis for each new book. Let’s just say the synopsis is brief and I invariable go off-piste! I do have several ‘how to plan/structure your novel’ manuals which I love reading but that’s as far as it goes. I basically just sit down and write. It takes around six months to write a first draft and then another few weeks to go over it before submitting to my editor. After that, it’s five months of structural, line and copy edits before the book is in any way ready for publication.
Could you describe your typical writing day?
I don’t think I have one. When I’m writing a novel, I set a target of 5000 words a week which usually means 1000 a day with the weekend off. I find that if I’m strict I stick to this, I can meet my deadline easily. I don’t have a set time of day when I write – if could be morning, afternoon or both. I never write in the evenings though. I like to spend that time with my husband.
Tell us something that might surprise us about your writing process or your journey to becoming a published novelist.
When I was competition judge for the SWWJ, I was invited to the award ceremony and afternoon tea in London. Sir Tim Rice was the other guest and I shared a table with him. When he turned to me and said, “I really admire what you’ve achieved,” I nearly fell off my chair! Needless to say, I’ve dined out on that story for years!
Who are your favourite authors?
I love Rose Tremaine and Ann Weisgarber and, in my genre, I think Lisa Jewell is the queen.
What does your family think of your writing?
I am lucky in that my family are incredibly supportive. My husband is an engineer so is great at working through plot problems with me without getting bogged down with the details. He also always reads my novels through before I submit to my editor and tells me what is and isn’t working. My mum and all my children and stepchildren read my books and genuinely love them which really warms my heart.
Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the idea for your latest novel came to you?
Actually, I can. I was sitting in a café with a group of writers in Brighton and my eye was caught by a black and white photograph on the wall. It was of an old dockland warehouse building which I guessed was in London. I loved the small-paned windows with their arched brickwork, the heavy wooden doors that opened onto iron railings, the rope and pulley system used to haul goods to the upper floors still bolted to the wall. I knew this could be the perfect setting for a thriller and from that moment my mind started whirring. What if the building was the only one converted into luxury apartments in a derelict wasteland? What if someone went missing? The idea for The Bride was born.
What next for Wendy Clarke?
A rest? No, that’s never going to happen. I’m just coming to the end of the first draft of my fourth psychological thriller and when that’s submitted, I shall be working through some ideas for the next one, ready to pitch it to my publisher. If anyone has any ideas to spare… please feel free to share!
More About Wendy:
Wendy Clarke started her career writing short fiction and serials for national women’s magazines, quickly becoming one of The People’s Friend’s top writers. She has also had stories long and shortlisted in competitions including the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition. She has published three collections of short stories and has been a short story judge for the Chiltern Writers Group, Nottingham Writers Group, The Society of Women Writers and journalists, the NAWG and Flash500. She has also written articles for Writing Magazine.
Moving away from short stories, Wendy has had two psychological thrillers published by Bookouture – What She Saw, which won the Flash500 Novel Competition, and We Were Sisters. Her third thriller, The Bride, will be published in May this year.
Wendy lives with her husband and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!
Wendy can be found on:
Her website is here.
You can buy Wendy’s novels here.